Perfume Genius is Mike Hadreas, a Seattle songwriter whose jarring 2010 debut album, Learning, was called “an album of rare, redemptive beauty…one of the most uniquely endearing and quietly forceful debut albums of recent years” by Drowned In Sound, and established him as one of the most singular songwriters today. The bulk of Learning sprung from a time of self-imposed isolation in his mother’s suburban home following a period of trauma and self-destruction. The album was actually mastered from second-generation MP3s, as Hadreas had lost the original recordings, and this distant, abraded sound reinforced its harrowing tales and haunting melodies.
“No secret/No matter how nasty/Can poison your voice/Or keep you from joy.” – Perfume Genius, “Normal Song”
Though Learning’s voyeuristic window into Hadreas’s experiences resonated intensely with many people, his new album Put Your Back N 2 It is much more universal, addressing intimacy, power, family, secrecy, and hope not just through his impressionistic lyrics, but the music itself, which is as lush as Learning was stark. It’s a gorgeous soundtrack for anyone trying to keep it together in everyday life, and about moving forward. “I don’t want it to seem like I’ve been through more than other people,” Hadreas says. “Everyone has stuff. Staying healthy can be more depressing and confusing than being fucked up. But I want to make music that’s honest and hopeful.” The hypnotic songs on Put Your Back N 2 It are tender and moving, but they are also surreal and grand, recalling at times the universality of lullabies and hymns, faraway folk songs, the dramatic arc of a film score, and the almost spiritual quality suggests a kind of opiated gospel. He cites as a primary influence not one of the indie icons to which he’s sometimes compared (Cat Power, Bon Iver, Thom Yorke), but The Innocence Mission (“not their sound, but their timelessness”).